Bucs rave about new pitching coach's delivery

Marin brings experience in biomechanics, analytics to Shelton's staff

July 12th, 2020

PITTSBURGH -- When the Pirates gathered for their first Spring Training meeting in Bradenton, Fla., pitching coach Oscar Marin stood in front of the group and led what Jameson Taillon called “an analytical seminar for dummies.” It was the start of a new era for Pittsburgh’s pitchers.

General manager Ben Cherington and manager Derek Shelton hired Marin in December because of his communication skills, his comprehension of modern coaching philosophies, his understanding of biomechanics, his fluency in analytics and, above all, his ability to put all that information into practice. The last part is where Marin began back in February.

“I had it simplified for myself when I first started learning it, and I dummied it down for myself, which in turn made it a lot easier to teach people how to do it,” Marin said. “It’s basically taking all that information, and simplifying it so you’re able to understand and eliminating the noise on things that maybe they don’t have to see, and going from there. Just simplifying the plan for them, and simplifying numbers for them as well.”

According to Taillon, Marin explained every word and number that pitchers would see in the reports they received after every bullpen session, live batting practice and game appearance. He didn’t just throw Rapsodo data at them and hope players figured it out on their own. He broke down how to read those reports and how to interpret the data included within them.

"I think with Oscar the biggest thing is we're taking that next step as a pitching staff of starting to use the analytics and numbers to our advantage,” reliever Nick Burdi said. “Not that it wasn't done in the past, but I think the way that we were taught in Spring Training and the way we applied it to bullpens, live BPs, outings, we're starting to utilize it a bit more.”

Marin’s mission statement, highly simplified, is to maximize the abilities of his pitchers. Sometimes he’ll try to achieve that through the use of analytics and pitch-usage data. Sometimes he’ll push for mechanical changes that might unlock a pitcher’s potential. It’s about getting the most out of what they have, not trying to make them into something they aren’t.

The players’ curiosity to learn more about that technology and analytical information, which they saw help former teammates like Gerrit Cole in Houston and Tyler Glasnow in Tampa Bay, meshed well with Marin’s passion for sharing his knowledge about how it could help each of them.

“If you spend any time talking to any of our pitchers, the first thing they’re going to rave about is his ability to communicate,” Shelton said. “Because you can know all the other things, but if you can’t translate that into the players’ language -- and each individual player’s language -- then it doesn’t matter. The one thing about communication is if it’s not consistent and understandable, it’s chaos. And we don’t want chaos.”

A month into Marin’s first Spring Training as a Major League pitching coach, the coronavirus pandemic created chaos in the form of a suspended season. But the 37-year-old has helped provide order and structure for Pirates pitchers even in those chaotic circumstances.

With the season on hold and players scattered around the globe, Marin and bullpen coach Justin Meccage had to figure out a way to keep more than 20 pitchers ready for the season -- without knowing when the season would start for much of that time -- while being careful to not wear out their arms. They had to account for a number of variables, from pitchers’ workload concerns to the equipment they had available and the local laws that limited where some of them could throw.

But Marin sketched out individualized plans that pitchers have raved about since returning to PNC Park for Summer Camp. Joe Musgrove, Trevor Williams and Derek Holland are stretched out to work five innings or more, and Mitch Keller worked into the fourth inning of an intrasquad game on Saturday night.

“We had three different plans to start, three different dates we thought the season was going to start,” Williams said. “We worked with Oscar and Mecc to make sure our bodies were still right. … I know a lot of guys came in ready to go.”

“I think he did a good job with getting us where we need to be compared to some of the guys I’ve been with during this time,” Holland added. “Our program was different than theirs, so it’s kind of cool to see that.”

Marin has helped the Pirates’ pitchers learn unfamiliar information and prepare amid unusual circumstances. As a result, the Pirates have been pleased with the shape their pitchers are in less than two weeks before Opening Day.

“I think it was about what we expected when it came to their arms, just because putting their programs together, we knew exactly what they were doing weekly, every day, when they were taking their days off, when they were throwing, how far, how long, the intensities,” Marin said. “I think their arms were pretty close to where we thought they were going to be.”